The senses of a newborn
Babies are born with all of the senses — sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
Some of the senses are not fully developed. The newborn's senses are as follows:
Over the first few months, babies may have uncoordinated eye movements and may even
appear cross-eyed. Babies are born with the ability to focus only at close range —
about 8 to 10 inches or the distance between a mother's face to the baby in her arms.
Babies are able to follow or track an object in the first few weeks of life. Focus
improves over the first 2 to 3 years of life to a normal 20/20 vision. Newborns can
detect light and dark but cannot see all colors. This is why many baby books and infant toys
have distinct black and white patterns.
During pregnancy, many mothers find that the baby may kick or jump in response to
loud noises and quiet with soft, soothing music. Hearing is fully developed in newborns.
Babies with normal hearing should startle in response to loud sounds. These babies
will also pay quiet attention to the mother's voice, and briefly stop moving when
sound at a conversational level is begun. Newborns seem to prefer a higher-pitched
voice (the mother's) to a low sounding voice (males). They also have the ability to
tune out loud noises after hearing them several times.
Newborns are screening while still in the hospital.
Studies have found that newborns have a strong sense of smell. Newborns prefer the
smell of their own mother, especially to her breast milk.
Babies prefer sweet tastes over sour or bitter tastes. Babies also show a strong preference
for breast milk and breastfeeding, especially if they are breastfed and then offered
formula or a bottle.
Babies are comforted by touch. Placing a hand on the baby's abdomen, or cuddling close
can help a baby feel more secure. Swaddling (wrapping snugly in a blanket) is another
technique used to help babies feel secure. Some mothers find their babies are comforted
when "worn" in a sling or carrier. Holding a baby for feedings is also important.
Breastfeeding ensures that a baby spends several hours in mother's arms. Although
bottle-feeding of breast milk may also be done.